Cake Talk 

Cupcakes and wine on South Main; cakes, cookies, and pies in Laurelwood.

The Corked Carrot pairs wines with sweet and savory cupcakes.

Justin Fox Burks

The Corked Carrot pairs wines with sweet and savory cupcakes.

Scan the menu at The Corked Carrot and you'll find all the familiar cupcake flavors, like chocolate and vanilla. But then you'll notice some not-so-familiar, like the Memphis barbecue cupcake.

"This isn't your traditional restaurant or bakery," says Neil Armstrong, owner of the Corked Carrot wine and cupcake bar. "It's got its own little niche, and I thought the South Main area would be perfect because it's eclectic and it's definitely on the rise."

With an unusual name and an unusual concept to match, the Corked Carrot is slated to open in South Main's restaurant and retail district on April 27th and feature both sweet and savory cupcakes paired with wines and champagnes.

Owner Neil Armstrong — yes, that is his real name — has been working on this concept since before he moved back to Memphis a few years ago. It was only when he found out the building at 314 South Main was available for purchase that Armstrong decided the time was right for his cupcake and wine bar to make its debut.

With the help of executive chef Masami Yenson, Armstrong is working up a small but creative menu of six to eight cupcake flavors like root beer and salted caramel popcorn, as well as savory cupcakes like that Memphis barbecue cupcake made with cornbread, pulled pork, and a barbecue icing on top.

"It's actually part of the liquor license," Armstrong says. "To get that, I need to serve a meal. The requirements for what constitutes a meal aren't very specific, so to accommodate that, I want to maintain the cupcake theme and do savory cupcakes like shepherd's pie or chicken and waffles."

Cupcakes will come in traditional and mini sizes. The wines, selected by Armstrong, will be primarily from the West Coast, with some European wines thrown in. Armstrong plans to use kegged wine as well as the Wine Station, a temperature-controlled system that keeps open bottles of wine fresh for up to 60 days. As a result, patrons will be able to sample more expensive wines by the glass without having to purchase the entire bottle.

The Corked Carrot, 314 S. Main (606-9680)

If you've raved about the coconut cake at Jim's Place or the strawberry cake at the Bar-B-Q Shop or the banana cake at Soul Fish, you've been raving about All American Sweets, which makes cakes and pies, from scratch, for a long list of local restaurants.

"We've heard stories of people arguing over which restaurant has the best cake, without realizing that they're all our cakes," says Bill Kloos Jr., who owns and operates the wholesale bakery in Bartlett with his parents, Bill and Lynn Kloos. In addition to providing cakes for area restaurants, they also take orders for intricate, personalized birthday cakes and extravagant wedding cakes.

And soon, the Kloos family will be opening a retail store, Frost Bake Shop, in Laurelwood Shopping Center. Frost will feature the same cakes from All American Sweets, sold whole or by the slice, plus cookies, pies, and cupcakes. They are set to open in the space next to James Davis this summer.

The secret to their cakes is born of years of experience and a little science, courtesy of Bill Sr.'s engineering background. According to Bill Jr., they have perfected their from-scratch cake mix to yield the right combination of moisture, crumbing, and softness. Coupled with real cream cheese frosting and real fruit for their strawberry and banana cakes, the Kloos family cakes are something worth arguing over.

Frost Bake Shop, Laurelwood Shopping Center, 426 S. Grove Park (652-8815)

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